The Case of Mary Ashford and the Cultural Context of Late-Regency Melodrama
This paper examines the historical context of the publication and reception of three dramas related to the murder of a gardener‘s daughter, Mary Ashford in Sutton Coldfield in 1817. George Ludlam‘s The Mysterious Murder was countered by a play called The Murdered Maid whose anonymous author is likely to have been a local clergyman. Both plays were locally written and published. When the case reached a national arena, John Kerr‘s Presumptive Guilt provided a London-based comment on the case. The paper examines the relationship between these metropolitan and provincial print cultures and the way in which dramatic form was used as a mode of mediation between public and legal discourse.
The Castle Spectre was one of the most popular and successful theatrical events of its day, and critics have often tried to explain its success, usually appealing to the ‘spectacular’ appearance of the spectre herself. But critics have not explored how the spectre - certainly no novelty on the stage - caused such a stir among contemporary audiences. By examining a selection of reviews, comments by contemporary literary figures, the text of the play, and Lewis‘s own comments concerning his spectacle, this paper demonstrates how Lewis employs strategies of delay and misdirection to make an otherwise nonviolent and unspectacular play appear excessively violent and spectacular even by 1790s Gothic standards.
Gothic Melodrama and the Aesthetic of Silence in Thomas Holcroft‘s A Tale of Mystery
Focusing on melodrama and on Thomas Holcroft‘s exemplary A Tale of Mystery (1802) in particular, this essay proposes a reinterpretation of Gothic drama and theatre as constitutively characterized by interruptions of comprehension. The tribulations of its persecuted protagonist Francisco are read in the context of the court trial of a real-life Francisco, who lived in London in 1802 and was one of the ‘stars’ in contemporary newspaper reports from the Old Bailey. Combining different generic and tonal modes, Romantic-period Gothic melodrama capitalized on explicitness and hyperbole, as well as on materializations of ethics and sentiment through their overt exhibition on stage or ‘ostension’. At the same time, it emphasized absence, silence, dematerialization and dissolution. With its continuously deferred revelations,and ostensions of the unsaid, A Tale of Mystery is a significant investment in an aesthetic of the unsaid that is central to a definition of Gothic on stage.
– and Jacobean tragic drama),
Sturm und Drang drama from the Continent, Victorian Gothicmelodrama and the recent surge in contemporary Gothic drama.
Matthew Lewis’s The Monk had drawn on
Revolutionary plays such as Sylvain Maréchal’s Le
Jugement dernier des rois (1793), and dramatists in this genre
had long utilised castle and convent settings. Jeffery M. Cox writes
have done no more in ‘inspiring imperialism than Gothicmelodramas
inspired banditry and a belief in ghosts’. 2 Her source is A. }. P. Taylor,
who, despite being an avid Henty reader, regarded Henty’s
imperialism as ‘very great nonsense’. This merely
demonstrates the intellectual’s habit of projecting the powerful
beliefs of his formative years back into the past. Henty himself would
The spectacle of death and the aesthetics of crowd control
Emma Galbally and Conrad Brunström
expression, presumptions and agendas were narrated through the
appropriation of existing Gothic tropes. The heightened emotional
and experiential aspects of Gothic are traceable to ideological and
political repression during the eighteenth century.
‘Monk’ Lewis himself enjoyed a keen
sense of the value of a dramatic killing in The Castle
Spectre ( 1798 ), a spoof Gothic
reminiscence which appears in an interview by Shibusawa Tatsuhiko,
Hijikata presents a space of passage as being a state of terror worthy
of gothicmelodrama. ‘My father used to recite old ballad-dramas,
which he was lousy at, and beat my mother. To my child’s eyes, he
seemed to be measuring the length of each step he took before hitting her. Now
that truly was terror. And, in effect, I played
Trans-Europ-Express, L’Eden et après, Glissements progressifs du plaisir
fundamentally changed in this respect over the years. Glissements
and La Belle captive , films of the 1970s and 1980s, were in this
sense more of their time.
In harmony with the Emmanuelle
trend of mainstream soft-core cinema in the 1970s, Robbe-Grillet’s
eroticism also seems influenced by both Gothic and Hitchcockian melodrama.
We may distinguish between Gothicmelodrama and horror on the
cooperation with the Carbonari conspirators provided him with an
insider’s perspective on the contemporary political situation that
made his testimony particularly interesting to the recipients of his
The spectacularisation of reality produced by the Italian system of
justice and punishment, whereby a real-life execution is transformed
into a Gothicmelodrama, appealed to Byron’s own theatricality in
both his life and works. Byron never overlooked the aesthetic impact
that his representations of Italian culture and society could have on
former medium of the Villa Carmen, now operating under a new
identity, ‘Eva C.’ (Eva Carrière), with Bisson described as the
medium’s ‘protectress’, a term suggestive of the Gothicmelodrama,
though Bisson might be better designated her stage manager, given
her controlling role in her protégé’s performances. Photography
was again central to the credibility of the ‘tests’, beginning with
two cameras but culminating in the use of eight, and published in
1913 as Les Phénomènes dits de matérialisation, heavily illustrated
with photographs, through which Bisson claimed to